Q&A With New Orleans RTCC Director and Systems Integrator

Oct. 11, 2023
Want to know how the city of New Orleans uses ALPR? Hear from the Director of the RTCC about why AutoVu Cloudrunner is now part of their toolkit.

When we think of New Orleans, usually jazz music, Mardi Gras, or Creole and Cajun cuisine come to mind. What most people often don’t consider is all the work that goes on behind the scenes to keep the city safe. Securing a city like New Orleans involves different public safety departments and a lot of technology.

We recently caught up with Ross Bourgeois, RTCC Director of Public Safety Support Services, as well Barlow Brown, Operations Manager at Convergint New Orleans, the city’s security systems integrator. Keep reading to find out how automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) added value to the RTCC’s investigative work and the reasons why they decided to deploy AutoVu Cloudrunner™, the Genetec vehicle-centric investigation system around the historic French Quarter in New Orleans.

Q: How does ALPR contribute to the city’s RTCC public safety operations?

Bourgeois: At the New Orleans Real Time Crime Center (RTCC), we use automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) to run queries on specific vehicles of interest and provide that information to police officers and detectives who are working on cases.

Usually, they have a known license plate, or they’re searching for a particular vehicle that went through a certain area because we've seen that vehicle on one of our video cameras. So, if we have an ALPR device in that area, we can run a query using vehicle characteristics or a specific time period and come up with a license plate for our target vehicle.

Q: What Genetec solutions have you implemented?

Bourgeois: We use Omnicast™, the video management system of Genetec Security Center to manage over 1000 cameras deployed through our city. They all come into our Real Time Crime Center. We also have a significant footprint of AutoVu SharpV license plate recognition cameras; about 150 of those to be exact. Most recently, we added 16 Cloudrunner ALPR cameras.

Q: What factors made you decide to add Cloudrunner?

Bourgeois: We had already been using the AutoVu SharpV cameras for some time. And when Genetec started developing their software as a service ALPR products, we partnered up with them as a test site. Because of that, we became very familiar with the ease of installation of these new Cloudrunner ALPR cameras. In areas where we knew connectivity and power were going to be challenging, we saw Cloudrunner as an obvious solution.

Today, we have 16 AutoVu Cloudrunner CR-H2 cameras within our public safety toolkit. The Cloudrunner devices are mainly installed around the French Quarter in New Orleans. We have a few more devices that are reading license plates of vehicles on exit ramps.

Brown: From an integrator’s technical standpoint, I think the biggest benefit of Cloudrunner is the ease of installation. Once you know the parameters by which you're installing these devices — the height, the angle, and all those small technical details — it’s really easy to get these ALPR devices up and running. And the ones we’re using are all solar-powered, so no wiring is needed, and they connect via the cloud to Security Center. The configuration time with Genetec on the phone is under 10 minutes; that’s very fast. I’d say the entire deployment, from installation to configuration, is under 30 minutes.

Q: What are the benefits of having Genetec AutoVu Cloudrunner?

Bourgeois: We had a pretty robust ALPR footprint before adding the 16 AutoVu Cloudrunner cameras. So they didn’t necessarily change the way our license plate reader program functions. But where we did see a difference with Cloudrunner is having the ability to place these ALPR devices in one of the most famous neighborhoods in the world, the New Orleans French Quarter.

The historic nature of the neighborhood made implementing technologies in this location challenging. Cloudrunner gave us that additional flexibility to deploy cameras in areas where you couldn't before. There are decorative historic poles that don’t provide as much lighting as a more modern neighborhood. And that’s usually quite critical in getting good license plate reads (LPR) and images at night. There are also unique architectural characteristics that shouldn’t be bogged down with technology.

Since Cloudrunner isn’t hard-wired, we were able to add devices in strategic areas to secure the French Quarter. Today, we can gather additional license plate reads and query suspect vehicles that are entering and existing in the area. Cloudrunner also performs really well in low-light conditions. We have not had any issues at all with image quality. We are easily capturing license plates and vehicle images. I think, more than changing our operation, these modern new devices have really helped us enhance security in one of the oldest and most popular neighborhoods in the country.

Q: How does Cloudrunner enhance your investigative work?

Bourgeois: Investigations are multifaceted and dynamic, right? Cloudrunner has been an additional tool in our officers’ and detectives’ toolbelt. I like to think of it like this— if that officer or detective had to find this information without this technology, what would that process look like? How much time did we save them? Were we able to give them something that they could not have gotten elsewhere? And I think in some cases, we have seen those successes. We’ve also expanded ALPR coverage to a busy area in our city. That helps us provide information to officers in a very efficient and effective manner to assist them with their investigations.

Some agencies solely use Cloudrunner to build out their entire license plate recognition program. For us, Cloudrunner makes our already-robust ALPR program a lot more nimble. So while the vast majority of our license plate reads are coming from AutoVu SharpV cameras, AutoVu Cloudrunner gives us that extra flexibility to install ALPR where we otherwise might not have been able to.

For those reasons, the portability of Cloudrunner is a huge advantage. Once we get an additional 22 Cloudrunner cameras installed in other critical areas in our city, our goal is to have several cameras available for rapid deployment and move those around to hotspots as dictated by the police department.

Q: How has AutoVu Cloudrunner been adopted by your team?

Bourgeois: Using Cloudrunner has been very seamless for our team because everything is connected within Security Center. Whether our officers are searching the entire system for a specific vehicle or license plate, or querying a particular camera or series of cameras within a limited timeframe, the system has been really easy to use. We can quickly find the information we need and send that off to police investigators. Today, we’re handling about 200 ALPR requests each month. Our total requests are about 1000, but most of that is video. ALPR requests make up about 20% of all those requests.

Brown: The beauty of having video and ALPR data all within Security Center is that officers are not having to jump into another solution when they are querying requests for video or vehicle data. And while Cloudrunner can be used as a standalone application, the city of New Orleans has been able to take advantage of the Cloudrunner connector to Security Center. If there are other public safety or law enforcement agencies out there that already have Genetec Security Center, you can easily just add Cloudrunner within the same platform. You don't have to change your system or train your officers to use another solution. Everything is within one software application.

Q: How would you describe your experience working with Genetec?

Brown: When the city of New Orleans was working with Genetec as a Cloudrunner test site, we were all very insistent on having a public-safety grade ALPR product. The city is using tax-payer dollars to fund these public safety investments, so we wanted to make sure they were getting a solution with high performance and durability. Genetec understood our position and was very responsive. They took our feedback seriously and delivered on these must-haves with the AutoVu Cloudrunner CR-H2 cameras.

Bourgeois: We’ve worked with Genetec for a long time, so we know their team is always looking for ways to make their solutions more intuitive for their customers. For now, Cloudrunner has certainly met our expectations. From the ease of installation and setup to the integration into Security Center and the quality of license plate reads at night, everything has been great. And all in all, both Genetec and Convergint continue to be phenomenal partners to us in the public safety space.

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